First, don’t panic. Yet.
If there’s one thing lawyers are good at, it’s bluffing. It’s pretty much impossible to tell, simply from the style and tone of a letter, whether the lawyer believes in what he or she is writing.* Beyond that, you have to consider the very real possibility that the lawyer has no idea what he or she is talking about. IP law is just as counter-intuitive to lawyers as to non-lawyers, and what seems intuitively wrong might be legally A-OK. Finally, the lawyer might not be the one driving the train. Often, there’s an angry or vindictive client with an outsized sense of his or her IP rights behind the letter.
* If anything, the relationship between tone and sincerity is slightly inverse: the more aggressive and threatening the tone, the less sincere the letter. Then again, many lawyers know not to fall into this trap.
But you can’t just throw the letter away. Often, lawyers aren’t bluffing. They’re giving you fair warning, a chance to climb down, to get out of trouble with your skin. Frustratingly, the downside of bluffing all the time is that there’s no way for a lawyer to signal: “Um, I really mean it, this time.”
Rather than panicking and complying with every demand in the letter, or tossing the letter into the trash, you owe it to yourself and your business to find out whether there’s anything to the letter. It might turn out the best strategy is to ignore the letter, but it might also turn out the best strategy is to argue with/educate the adversary, negotiate with the adversary, or even file a preemptive lawsuit.
At Rick Sanders Law, we can serve as that liaison you need to help you get the peace of mind you want and dispute resolution your business needs. Contact us now, and we’ll start walking that path with you.